I grew up in a little town north of Boston. It was probably no different then any small town that you could select. We had three grammar schools, a junior high, and a high school. After grammar school, every kid in town knew every other kid in town as a result. Looking back, I think about the types of issues we confronted, and I have to admit, they pale in comparison to those of today.
The terminology ‘gay’ wasn’t used back then. Probably because no one had put a name to it yet, other then the propensity for calling anyone that seemed out of step with their gender ‘queer’. It also, I suspect, had something to do with the fact that it was a period when discretion was paramount. You didn’t talk about it, at least not openly. Everyone preferred to hide that which they found uncomfortable. If an unwed girl became pregnant, efforts were taken to keep it secret. If a son got in trouble with the police, to the extent possible, it was kept under wraps. I even remember the women of the neighborhood, while hanging out the wash, placing the families underwear on a clothesline between the sheets so as not to be exposed to the neighbors. That’s how tightly wrapped we were.
As a result, I don’t remember knowing anyone that was gay. I probably did, and just didn’t know it. And if I had, it probably wouldn’t have made any difference. We all had our own set of friends and they were who they were. No more, no less. Friendship was predicated on common interests and to some degree, geography since the only things you had to listen to back then were your mother, your father and the radio. I do know, however, that none of my friends had two mothers or two fathers.
So today, some seventy plus years later, I am well removed from the environment I once knew. I have been exposed to a more naked world. One in which we are confronted every day with new demographics begging for recognition and acceptance. Although I must admit that I am confused by some of it and challenged by more of it, for the most part, I can understand it. There is nothing wrong with equality.
I read an article this morning about a 17 year old honor student that was in the process of pursuing his/her transgender identity, encouraged and supported by an understanding mother. Unfortunately, the pressures of the transition escalated much more quickly then the benchmarks of change. He wrote a letter to his mother that began “Dear Mommy, I am so sorry to do this, but I have killed myself”. He went on to write as follows:
“I would like to be remembered as a transgender pansexual teenage girl named Hope. Being transgender is my gender identity. My sexual orientation, or sexual identity, is being pansexual, meaning that I do not care about what the person is; I care about who they are. Sexual orientation is who you go to bed with and gender identity is who you go to bed as.”
Those last two sentences touched me. I had not thought of ones sexual orientation in the terms he described, but it made sense. I read them several times thinking how wise this person was for their age. For any age. He had a clarity of sight that escapes so many. It is just a shame that he felt he must leave in order to make us see it is who, not what that defines us.